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Golf: Murcar Links pro Gary Forbes on following Colin Montgomerie’s lead at Wentworth and putting club on map for US tourists

Murcar Links Golf Club pro Gary Forbes. Picture by Wullie Marr
Murcar Links Golf Club pro Gary Forbes. Picture by Wullie Marr

In part two of a three-part series on Murcar Links professional Gary Forbes’ 25th year, Gary reflects on settling down at the Bridge of Don club and putting it on the map of US tourists.

Read part one here.

Watching Monty win at Wentworth before Murcar pair played pro/captain event

Family security contributed to Gary Forbes’  returning to Murcar Links as head pro in 1996.

“When their head pro Alan White left for Lanark, I had little hesitation sending in my CV,” he said.

“After seven years playing actively (as a professional), I felt it was a good time to settle down and develop my career further.

“I was fortunate that Murcar captain Bill Brennan and vice-captain Richard Thomson, who sat in on the interview, knew me from my first three years at the club and I’m incredibly grateful to them.

“I later remember playing in the Scottish professional/captain regional qualifying round at Gullane with Richard.

“The weather was awful, but fortunately it cleared just as we teed off.

“We clicked over the first 14 holes, with birdies and eagles in the mix, and eventually won by a few shots.

“As Scottish champions, we were invited to play in the Volvo Masters pro/captain event at Wentworth.

“It is a trip Richard and I won’t forget. A limousine took us to Aberdeen Airport, we flew to Gatwick and were again picked up by limousine and taken to our hotel.

“We watched Colin Montgomerie card a winning final round of 64 before attending a gala dinner in the evening.

Colin Montgomerie celebrates winning the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth in 1999. His final round 64 helped him win the trophy by five strokes.

“In our competition the next day to the same pins, our round was average.

“We never realised how long and difficult Wentworth was from the back tees, but it was truly amazing day.

“We shot a better ball of 74 to finish mid-pack, but got to appreciate how good the round of Montgomerie had been.”

Gary later worked with three more captains – Bruce Spence, Alan Forbes and Lindsay Mitchell ahead of Derek Mortimer, who held the post from 2004-2006.

Forbes said: “Derek was instrumental in sending me to the Orlando Golf Show where we managed to put Murcar Links on the map with tour operators.

“I continued to make the annual journey to other venues for the next seven years, which helped grow the reputation of Murcar.”

Murcar Links are one of the golf clubs who have already released their 2021 prices.
Murcar Links is one of the north-east’s most prestigious courses.

Prior to Murcar return, Gary mixed coaching with on-course success – including leading Open qualifying

Gary Forbes moved to Deeside with Frank Coutts after his boss was appointed head professional at the Bieldside club in 1989.

Four years later, Gary left to take on a coaching role at Aberdeen Petroleum Club, which also helped him break into the top 25 on the Tartan Tour.

“I made the cut in every Scottish PGA Championship from 1988 to 1998,” said Gary, “Dalmahoy was my favourite venue, where I lined up in fields including Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Gary Orr.

“I won two Deeside pro-cel-ams and also the team event with Douglas Craig and his two sons.

“I recall being seven-under-par at the turn in the first Grampian Houston pro-am at the Kings Links, only to finish second to Scott Henderson.

“My amateur partners Ian Ord, Bill Barclay and Frank Lefevre and I won the team prize, which is a still a special memory.

“I shot 29 to the turn in the Sunderland Masters at Renfrew on my way to leading with a course record of seven-under 65.

“I also led the 1991 Open qualifying for Royal Birkdale at West-Lancashire, only to eventually miss out by one stroke.

“I had many happy days at Deeside and Kippie (Lodge).

“Many people helped me, but special mention must go to Helen Bouhnassa, who organised my diary from 1992 until I left to return to Murcar four years later.”

First Tartan Tour win at Ellon

The last two holes at Ellon McDonald have ruined many a good card.

However, a fearless and possibly naive Gary Forbes notched his first Tartan Tour win at their pro-am.

Ellon McDonald.

“I had Murcar junior James Robertson as my caddie,” said Gary, “And we stood on the 17th tee with a great score.

“Neither of us had played Ellon before and knew little of what lay ahead.

“James, young and with no fear, said: ‘Bomb it through the trees and it’ll leave you a mid-iron’.

“I had no demons in those days so that’s what I did and made an easy four.

“On 18, James said it looks like a big fade off the trees with the driver.

“So again, without hesitation, the driver came out and I played a big fade straight through the gap of the trees to leave an 8-iron to the green.

“To this day, I can honestly say I’ve never hit a driver at the 18th again.

“But I got my four and won my first Tartan Tour event – and it’s one I’ll never forget.

“James later turned professional for a few years before going into the oil world and remains a really good friend.”

WATCH: Murcar Links Golf Club pro Gary Forbes reflects ahead of 25th Christmas in the job